Government Shutdown Ended

“The government shutdown ended Wednesday. Gov. Dayton called a special session on Tuesday and signed the bills into law after a 12 hour session that went past 3a.m. Wednesday morning. There are still things to do to get our state back up and running but the stalemate between the governor and Republican leadership has ended. I am not happy with the final solution but I recognized the need to get our state back to work.

The final agreement that closed the $1.4 billion gap shifted another $700 million, for a total of $2.1 billion, from our schools and sold $700 million in tobacco bonds. While there is additional revenue, it will be years before we pay off this debt. We are using a proposal that Tim Pawlenty suggested when he was governor that was a bad idea then and is still a bad idea today. This agreement does nothing to fix the problems we have in our state budget.

It is the responsibility of the legislature to pass a total budget package that the governor will agree to sign. Gov. Dayton said from the beginning that he would not agree to a cuts-only budget and wanted new revenue along with substantial cuts and reforms. The budget passed by the Republicans would have increased property taxes on all Minnesotans by $1 billion, cut 140,000 of our vulnerable citizens off of their health care, reduced special education funding by $56.5 million, and made the biggest cuts to colleges and universities in our state’s history. It hurt the shrinking middle class just to protect the 7,700 millionaires in the state from paying the same share of taxes you and I pay.

I thank the governor for standing up to an additional $1.4 billion in cuts that were proposed by the Republican Legislature. The governor already cut $2.2 billion in his budget and any further cuts would have decimated the education and health care systems that we pride ourselves on as Minnesotans.

We passed 12 bills in the special session ranging from K-12 Education to a Bonding bill which will fund projects to get people back to work. The final Environment and Natural Resources Budget Bill kept the forest industry competitive and I voted for it. It does use a substantial amount of one-time funding which just creates the same problem for us in the next budget cycle. The Economic Development Bill is critical for promoting job growth and that was another bill that I voted for.

We are all in this together and I have always worked for a balanced approach to solving our continuing budget problems. We have to stop using shifts, gimmicks and borrowing to help us generate a more stable state economy. My hope is that in the next budget cycle we can have true tax reform, such as a lower sales tax rate that covers more goods and services and income tax reform that relies less on exemptions and deductions.

I am glad that a budget agreement was reached. But in the next biennium, we will once again be staring at the same problems. I would like to see the solutions, like the tax reform I mentioned above, before a catastrophe like the shutdown we just endured ever happens again.”

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Senator Tom Saxhaug
Tom Saxhaug represents District 5, which includes portions of Beltrami, Cass, Hubbard, and Itasca counties in the northern part of the state. He is a retired insurance agent. Sen. Saxhaug chairs the State Departments and Veterans Budget Division.

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